Kevin Donnelly: Resilience in the face of 2020

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Many across the nation and around the world are adjusting to the realities of a COVID-19 world

There’s no doubt as a result of the COVID-19 virus and its debilitating and destructive effect on society both medically and economically that increasing numbers of people are distraught and in danger of suffering anxiety, loss and depression.

a very different time

Whether measured by alcohol consumption, family violence, calls to organisations like Beyond Blue or the incidents of self-harm and in extreme cases suicide it’s clear the fabric that holds communities and families together is under threat.

COVID-19 artistic rendition STOCK PHOTO

What’s to be done?  As someone who grew up in a violent and dysfunctional house with a drunken, violent father who deserted his family and left them destitute I’m the first to admit there is no easy answer.

The consequences of being evicted, the knowledge as a young boy you could never protect your mother and the sense that life was falling apart all conspired to instill a sense of hopelessness and despair.

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck, 1639. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds by
Govert Flinck, 1639. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

As such I can empathise with those who have lost their jobs, who face bankruptcy and those whose aspirations and hopes for the future have been dashed because of an apparently random event never expected and outside their control.

This world is not a utopia

While many argue we now live in a secular, post Christian age as a young boy raised as a Catholic what Jesus had to suffer epitomised by the Stations of the Cross taught me suffering and pain are inevitable aspects of life.

Saint Teresa of Avila – Spanish Carmelit Mystic WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

This world is not a utopia and to be human is to have to confront and deal with setbacks and events that conspire to unsettle and destroy.  With God’s love and grace it is possible to find comfort and reassurance.

As stated by St Teresa of Avila “Let nothing disturb thee, Nothing affright thee; All things are passing, God never changeth!”.

The English Christian mystic Julien of Norwich expresses the same sentiment when she writes “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well”.

While this is a very different time it’s also vital to learn from those involved in the Pacific War we recently celebrated.  The 75th anniversary of the war in the Pacific signalled a dark and harrowing period where Australia faced the prospect of imminent invasion and defeat.

2/19th Australian_Infantry Battalion embarking Sydney Feb 1941 PUBLIC DOMAIN: Australian War Memorial

On the home front people experienced a strong sense of patriotism and allegiance to the nation as well as loyalty and commitment to family and friends.  While today’s society is characterised by divisive and competing interests it’s time to reassert that we are all Australians regardless of class, gender, ethnicity or the colour of one’s skin.

Reading about and listening to those who experienced the evil and barbarous treatment in Singapore’s Changi Prison or on the Burma Railway and the Sandakan death marches it’s also good to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are by comparison.

We have never been made to suffer the starvation, disease and cruelty experienced on a daily basis by those captured by the Japanese.  We have never suffered the trauma and anguish suffered by those seeing their mates starved and beaten to death and knowing they were powerless to act.

One of two statues of Anzac soldiers by Alan Somerville at Sydney’s Anzac Bridge. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Whether billion dollar government interventions like Job Keeper and the Job Seeker additional payment or the philanthropic work of Christian organisations like the Salvation Army and Mission Australia there is a safety net to help those in need.

Those men and women who suffered the gruelling privations and dangers of the pacific war  when asked talk about the value of mateship and the support of loved ones.  Previous generations also were taught they must fight on and not give up regardless of the odds and how dire the situation.

While human traits like courage, optimism and resilience are increasingly lacking in today’s world of self-gratification and materialism it’s obvious older generations believed in something more enduring and life affirming that gave them the ability to cope with adversity and loss.

Members of the Horsley Park RFS Brigade comfort each other PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

When our son, James, was killed in a hit and run accident we were left shell shocked and devastated searching endlessly for the reason he was so cruelly taken.  His school chaplain comforted us with the belief even though evil exists and we cannot control our fate or the fate of loved ones there is comfort.

As stated by Julian of Norwich “If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

An artist’s depiction of a scene from the Pentecost Photo: CNS, Crosiers

It’s rare that anyone gets through life untouched by loss, sorrow and grief.  The challenge has always been and will continue to be how we deal with and cope with the inevitable pain and suffering.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of ‘How Political Correctness Is Still Destroying Australia (available at kevindonnelly.com.au).

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